Category Archives: personal

Fighting For Ellie: It’s On!

Today’s a bit of a big day in the whole Fighting For Ellie process, with weigh-ins and the submission of match-up choices at the gym tonight as well as tickets going on sale!

The last Fighting For Ellie event – the 3rd of its’ kind overall and the first outing of the partnership between Princess Ellie’s Trust and Millennium Martial Arts (hence it being christened ‘Season 1’ – was at Newsham Side Club, which is the 350-capacity home to the Punch-Drunk Blyth events. Tickets were to go on sale at Millennium at 5:00pm on a Friday evening and by 4:50pm the queue was so long – and it being September, everyone was waiting in the cold – that they started selling early and were sold out by 4:55!

This time around for Season 2, FFE is moving to Blyth Sports Centre which recently played host to the spectacular UK Comics Boxing: Fight For Kian and which can host a colossal 800 people. So this time the tickets might last half an hour or so!

Seriously though, I’ll be at the gym and can’t wait to see how fast 800 of these things go!

The Sports Centre venue is amazing if ever-so-slightly daunting! Fancy having your first ever fight in the middle of this set-up…

FFK set-up panoramic

So it’s a very exciting day in the FFE: Season 2 build-up calendar – but I do wish it wasn’t coming at the end of a week in said calendar that’s looking decidedly blank…

Training Diary for WordPress NEW

The forever-good-intentions of getting into the gym during the Punch-Drunk run faded, as usual, into nothingness and coupling that with less than desirable eating habits over the last week and I’m hoping I’m not going to be weighing substantially heavier than I will be in 4 weeks’ time after engaging full beast-mode tonight.

I promise that the next time you see that calendar, there will be a lot more colour happening because not only am I getting steadily more terrified as the hours go by – but comparing how I feel today to how I felt last Friday is easily motivation enough to get right back into it.

So I’m off to make some eggs and try to resist sticking bacon on too, I’ll check back in on how tonight went down, or might see you down there!

I’ll warn you now, this will be the first of many, many of these… Eeeeeeeeek!

L xx

Tickets for Fighting For Ellie go on sale TONIGHT!
(25th March)
5.30pm
Millennium Martial Arts

Standard tickets are £25 each.

Ring side at table with waitress are £35 each or £400 for a table of 12.

UNFORTUNATELY TICKETS CAN NOT BE RESERVED

Fighting For Ellie takes place on 23rd April @Blyth Sports Centre – check the event page here for further details

 

 

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6 Things I could Accomplish if I Stopped Falling Asleep on the Bus

I love a nap.

I can be pretty lazy and I’m a world-class procrastinator, so a good afternoon nap is always appreciated. That’s something I certainly didn’t grow out of during 3 years of Uni. In fact I’m quite seriously debating having a quick nap now and finishing this later, but I won’t (or I might have done, how would you know)?

The Uni lifestyle can be an unstructured one, to say the least. There’s no established routine and more worryingly all that work that needs to be done, those thousands and thousands of words – that’s all down to you and you alone. You, your self-motivation and your will-power.

So yeah, lots of naps tend to happen!

In fact I remember clearly, days that more or less consisted of one long nap – often with great remorse that I didn’t bask in their glory more while I had the chance. On these days getting out of bed was done no earlier than 3pm and even then it was for the sole purpose of being sociable, which meant joining the housemates in the living room (duvet in tow, naturally) for a marathon of Jeremy Kyle, Don’t Tell the Bride and Eastenders. The pinnacles of physical excercise for the day consisted of stirring your pot noodle, loo breaks (once they became absolutely essential) and taking turns to reboot the wireless.

At a previously undetermined point during the early evening your conscience would kick in and you’d drag yourself to your room to retrieve the laptop and a couple of books, muttering something vague as you left the room along the lines of “right, I HAVE to do some work, nobody nick my seat.” Then you’d settle yourself back in your carefully sculpted bum-shaped dent in the sofa with the laptop, books and a cuppa – and proceed to google pointless crap, refresh your Facebook timeline and carefully study the IMDB profile of that guy on the TV and figure out which film you know them from. Needless to say the books were usually employed exclusively as a make-shift coffee table and you’d be left wondering as you carried them back upstairs a few hours later, what made you bring them down in the first place.

But anyway, snapping out of reminiscing about the dreamy parallel universe that is UK higher education and getting back to civilised life, where there are jobs to go to and to-do lists to keep on top of, napping is a somewhat dangerous game.

I’ve found the perfect nap length is around half an hour. Have a nice half hour nap and you’ll find yourself refreshed, focussed and raring to start some housework/excercise/job applications/writing (or whatever it is you need to do – these are just a few of the things that I expertly procrastinate from on a daily basis). But go any longer, sleep through the alarm or groan at your designated waker to leave you alone one too many times until they think “sod this” and consent to leave you in your pit to sleep away the afternoon – and it will likely result in a solemn pledge to never nap again.

Have one of the latter kind of naps and with cruel, cruel irony you’ll feel like you haven’t slept a single hour in the last 3 months. You might as well concede defeat and kiss productivity goodbye for the day as it saunters out of the front door, leaving you to stare blinkingly after it in an unparalleled state of groggy, disoriented can’t-be-arsedness.

The problem is my bus journey to work at the moment is about 45 minutes, so take off a few minutes at the beginning for getting sat down, getting my phone or Kindle out and fooling myself that I’m going to read a book/write/find out what’s happening in the world – and you’re left with the perfect nap time. Believe me my body has wised up to this and is taking full advantage. Out of an average 10 bus trips per week I tend to sleep straight through 8 of them, and doze through at least part of the other two. Maybe it doesn’t help that it’s usually dark while I’m travelling at the minute but let’s be honest, it could be like Miami Beach in July out there, and I’d probably still nod off!

The whole ‘I can’t possibly fall asleep in public’ thing deserted me months ago, another thing scratched off the list of things I get embarrassed/ashamed about as I get further into my twenties and simultaneously care less and less about what people think.

Although I will admit that there was a short period some months ago when I was traumatised by witnessing a poor teenage guy fall asleep on the top deck of a (very busy) bus from Newcastle. This wasn’t a problem in itself and it could have turned out to be a great little nap, if the bus hadn’t lurched rather violently, sending the guy hurtling to the floor equally as violently. To make matters worse he woke up half way down and yelped like a little puppy, (except much louder). Needless to say the teenage girls sitting behind him couldn’t stifle their giggles. To be frank they were more like guffaws and there was no real attempt made to hold them in.

I do still have some shame and I would expect that I too would turn something close to the shade of crimson that guy did if that happened to me. In fact I’d probably have gotten off the bus at the next stop and waited for the next one, on which nobody would have known of my humiliation. So anyway I swore off falling asleep on the bus that day, but apparently I got over that quite quickly…

Anyway getting to the point, I’ve been re-evaluating my productiveness (or lack of it) again lately. So here is a list I’ve come up wth to try to motivate myself, of things I could (theoretically, assuming some level of productiveness rather than 45 minutes of staring wistfully out of the window) do with the 7.5 hours that I spend sitting on a bus each week. If only I didn’t spend them sleeping…

  • Read a book or two each week – then I could even think about starting to write a book-review blog, which I’ve wanted to do for a while, only I don’t get through anywhere near enough books!
  • Write a new blog post every day – not that I’m under the illusion that I have enough good ideas to write that often, so the quality/quantity balance would be way off!
  • Watch all of Breaking Bad in 8 weeks – I realise that’s not quick for most people but as things stand it’s taken me 2 years and I’m only up to season 3, episode 4 (no spoilers please). Maybe then I could even make some progress on the many other shows that I seem to have stalled half way through, like Supernatural, Grimm, Game of Thrones, Criminal Minds etc etc
  • Read A LOT more news, and be a bit better informed.
  • Listen to more new music.
  • Speak to a fellow bus dweller – sounds weird I know but people must have done this before the days of mobiles, Kindles, tablets and MP3s!

Social Media Cold Turkey – I Did It!! (day 31)

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Image taken from Keisharocks.com

So I’ve done it, 31 days without using social media!

The withdrawal honestly hasn’t been too bad. I haven’t had to fight against a powerful, primal urge to check my Snapchats. No arguments, bribery or blackmail have ensued as attempts to make my partner give up my passwords; nor have I managed to lock any of my accounts by trying to guess what he might have put. No late night phone calls have been made to friends in a bid to find out what I’ve been missing. It turns out life without Facebook et al. isn’t actually that bad! In fact its been a good excuse to break a pretty irritating habit!

I can’t pretend I’ve been more productive because realistically, I haven’t. The time I haven’t spent scrolling through Facebook whilst on the bus to and from work has for the most part been otherwise wastefully occupied. Mostly by falling asleep. I do that A LOT. Its kind of my thing. I might have caught 20 minutes more sleep per night through not lying in bed of an evening checking social media, but I don’t think I’ve particularly slept better for it – as some suggest you will after disconnecting from always-on-forever-pinging-at-you communication.

So I haven’t become a more productive, more accomplished, better-rested, cooler, more interesting individual through my 4 week abstention from social media. But I have learned that it is easier to live without it than I thought it would be (at least short term), and that those who really want to keep in touch with you (and who you want to keep in touch with) will do that through those long forgotten mediums of text and phonecalls (and sometimes even face-to-face encounters).

However, one of the things that you can’t do effectively without it is to spread the word about your new blog. And get people to read it. So I’m back! Hey, I never said it didn’t have its uses…

What I’d say I’ve really learned from the whole experience, from sitting down and thinking about social media, and writing down my hopefully not too mind-numbing ramblings about what its like to use it and to not use it – is how powerful it can be. How huge a part of our lives it is and just how much of ourselves we put out there when we use it.

I’ve read, looked at and watched some of the most heartwarming things imaginable, right on Facebook and Twitter since I started using them. I’ve watched a terminally ill young man use social media to raise huge amounts of money in record time, for people in similar positions to him; seen a simple hashtag help a nation to show their compassion for an entire race of people and stand up against racial hatred in the wake of a terrible crime committed by one hateful radical.

And recently I’ve also read the constant and growing outpour of racial hatred from people that I grew up with, went to school with and have worked with – resulting from the government and the media’s use of social media to spread their hateful message about how Muslim’s are “destroying Great Britain,” in order to distract us from the actual root of our problems (them) in the run up to a general election.

So really what I’ve learned is how great social media can be, but also how dangerous. Really stopping and thinking about social media, which we’ve let into our lives in such a massive way, has made me think more about how I use it; the size of the pinch of salt with which I take everything that I read online; how I view others when I’m reading their posts or comments; and what I put on there about myself, for all the world to see.

Social Media Cold Turkey – photographic evidence (day 21 – 09/11/2014)

I was out with my family the other night and I got to thinking about something (dangerous, I know).

We were walking around the Sunderland Illuminations at Roker Park and I was taking photos on my phone, mostly of the kids who were all excited and happily posing in front of the displays. Well, 7-year-old Nicole was happily posing, 3-year-old Ethan took a little more convincing and Kenzie, who’s almost 2 – well you just have to catch him on the odd occasion that he stops and stands still.

Anyway, we were wandering around and I was snapping away on my phone, until I realised that I hadn’t really seen any of the displays for myself (as in, not through my camera). I hadn’t really been taking in and enjoying the displays, but instead was more focussed on taking photos so that I could remember (and show others) how much we had enjoyed them! This got me thinking about how much of our time we spend taking photographs when we’re doing something that we enjoy, whether it’s having days out with family or going on nights out with friends.

If something interesting or funny happens and nobody managed to get a picture of it, we’re genuinely disappointed. Or if we’ve taken a load of photos on a day/night out or on holiday and we somehow lose them (lost camera/corrupted memory card/swimming pool incident – I have previous of all of these) it feels like a big part of the experience is lost. It’s as if we don’t trust our memories to keep the information for us to enjoy in the future, we need photos to jog our memories and help us to reminisce.

Which is fine and we’ve always done this to an extent, with lots of embarrassing photos taken on birthdays, at Christmas, at school plays and sports days, and our first day at each school. And nothing was better than getting a disposable camera for your birthday and taking (28?) pointless but awesome photos of you and your friends which would later be blu-tacked to the back of your wardrobe door.

I guess it just feels like now, with good quality cameras on our phones and the ability to immediately share an unlimited amount of photos on social media, taking photos (and especially sharing them, to as many people as possible) has sort of become the focus of our social lives, rather than just a way to remember them. Instead of taking photos that we can look back at on our own or with the small group of people who are in them, we’re using them as a way to prove to others that we have active social lives and lots of friends; that we’re interesting and spend our time doing interesting things.

When we really think about it though, with photos becoming a bigger and bigger element of everything we do, we can’t be surprised that people are becoming more and more (and more) pre-occupied with how they look, at all times. Countless times I’ve heard friends (as well as myself) say that they need to make sure they’re looking their best tonight because such-and-such is coming out – and they always take loads of pictures. But photos aren’t confined to special occasions anymore and it can feel like they’re being taken (and shared) all of the time. Worryingly, a quite natural reaction to this is for us as a society to become more conscious in our day-to-day lives, of how we look.

What I find more worrying though, is that we’re starting to concentrate on this stuff at a much younger age. When I was 10 years old, I’d wake up in the morning and get washed, brush my teeth, pull a brush through my hair and get dressed. Then it was either out to school or off to knock on my friends, in which case we’d spend the day playing on our bikes or climbing trees (they would climb trees, I would usually sit on the bottom branch a few feet up, scared to go any higher); or playing computer games at someone’s house. I realise this sounds like a bit of a “things aren’t like they used to be” lecture, but the point is that 99% of the time, taking photos of us doing whatever we were doing, was the last thing on our minds.

Now, many young girls of the same age are getting up in the morning and whether they’re off to school or to knock on their friends, they have to consider how they look. They feel they have to apply make up to hide what they think is their horrible skin which doesn’t look good on the countless pictures that they and their friends take of each other every day. They have to put proper thought into what they are going to wear and how they’ll do their hair.

I can’t imagine having felt that way at 10 years old and I find it pretty scary – and such a shame – that kids have to now. There are so many other things they could be thinking about – and enjoying – but instead they’re spending most of their time convincing each other that they are in fact, beautiful. Or worse, battling their insecurities about their own looks by insulting each other. What scares me is that, at 9/10/11 years old, children aren’t emotionally developed enough to be dealing with such complex issues and feelings!

“Don’t Tell me what to do!!”

For a long time now I have found myself getting very frustrated by some people’s massive overuse of the term ‘political correctness’.

Now this is not because I feel that a situation in which my kids could grow up not being allowed to keep long-lived British traditions such as having Christmas parties and plays at school, is fair and just. It isn’t because I don’t recognise that there are still many taboos in our society which need to be broken down, and that getting around entrenched stiff-upper-lip-syndrome is an essential part of making cultural progress with issues around, for example drug use, mental illness, abortion, homelessness, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy… the list goes on and on. It isn’t because I am a wily politician who is terrified of voters thinking about and discussing real issues which may lead them to question my carefully cratfed election strategy, and consider voting for a ‘revolutionary’, ‘new,’ party such as Ukip. (The fact that a vote for Ukip is in my view the exact opposite of a vote for change or a protest against the establishment, is a topic for another day).

The point is, I don’t like being told how it is ‘correct’ for me to think, feel or behave, any more than the next person.

But what I also hate is to see people rolling out the old cliche that something is “just political correctness gone mad”, along with a big sneer, as a barrier to conversation and debate. What I hate is when that cliche is thrown into the mix as an excuse to refuse to discuss the way in which we do things, our attitudes, or really anything that means anything.

Today I was reading a post on Facebook where a guy was asking parents to consider signing their childrens’ more extravagant Christmas presents from Mum and Dad, and signing a more modest collection of them as being from Santa Clause. The idea behind this was that the children of parents who are less wealthy (or less willing to amass huge amounts of debt) can be left wondering why Santa thinks they’ve been naughtier than Jack down the street who got 2 new consoles, 26 games, an iPad and a whole new wardrobe for Christmas.

The idea is that splitting the credit between Santa and the parents shows children that their Christmas presents are determined by the wealth of the family rather than by who Santa likes the most or by how well each child has behaved (which, lets face it, tends to have very little effect these days, on how much stuff they get).

Now of course, there are many arguments before and against this. I can totally see the point that many parents work very hard to provide chair-fulls of gifts for their kids at Christmas, and don’t see why they should have to spoil the magic by admitting they’re not all from Santa. I can also see the argument that the only important thing is to teach your children to appreciate whatever it is that they get, and not compare it to what other’s have received. I know that’s how my brothers and sisters and I were brought up and we continue to be very none-materialistic people and appreciate anything that is given to us or done for us.

Another comment that had me nodding as I read, was from a parent who wholeheartedly agreed with the post and elaborated that she thought it was extremely important that children grow up from day one knowing the value of money and that nice things don’t just appear out of nowhere because they are owed to you, because its Christmas.

I could see the points of people who pointed out that we all have a responsibility to society and its other families, and the happiness and welfare of their children as well as just our own.

The post and its comments made a really interesting read and there were so many varied opinions that I can’t honestly pretend I know how I will approach this when the time comes that I have my own family. But I really enjoyed reading the discussion and thinking about the points that were made.

I also saw a blog about much the same subject but discussing the impact of posting photos of mountains of gifts on social media, if you have time give it a read and check out the comments, people obviousy feel very strongly about this issue.

The only comment that angered me to read was on the first post and it basically ranted about how this is just another example of ridiculous political correctness, and “them” trying to tell us what to do.

No. No it isn’t. It is simply a heartfelt post written (from my perception) with the intention of encouraging parents to think about something a little differently. It was intended to start a discussion and it did just that.

So why is it that some people are so terrified of that? Why are they so quick to become intensely defensive of themselves and the way they live their lives? Why are some people so closed to debate?

As I said above, I don’t like being told by our government how to think, feel and behave, just like everyone else. But I also hate being told just that, by people on the internet. I hate reading memes and posts on Facebook which agressively proclaim to rally against ‘political correctness’ and encourage individual opinion, yet include words along the lines of “re-post this if you have the guts”.

Is this not also trying to tell me how I should think, and shaming me for having an opinion which does not comply?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is nothing wrong with questioning the way that we do things as individuals and as a society, and that crying “political correctness” every time someone tries to do that, probably says more about you, than the person you’re yelling it at.

Being Animally-Awkward

I’m not an animal person.

In fact anyone who knows me will probably tell you that’s a gross understatement of the facts!

I don’t hate animals – I’m not some heartless hater of all ‘lesser’ creatures, who can be found stonefacedly scrolling right on past all the videos of high-on-catnip cats, ‘talking’ dogs, and cats who think they’re dogs. I can appreciate all animals from the cute and cuddly to the powerful and ferocious. My oldest friends will even recall a long-lived obsession with a certain type of sea-faring mammal.

So actually, let me rephrase that – I’m not a pet person. I realise that many, many people get great joy out of their pets, they enjoy looking after them and love the loyalty and affection that they get as a reward. In theory I completely understand this, but personally, I’ve just never seen the appeal.

Its not because I don’t want to look after anyone or anything – I am a complete mother at heart and adore looking after my nieces and nephews. I grew up in a family of 6 kids and am not afraid of snot or slaver or poo. The truth is, animals just freak me out!

We never had pets when we were growing up (my Mam had her hands full enough with 6 of those human-animal hybrids that we affectionately know as young children). So I never really got comfortable with the reality of animals in the house. My Dad had 2 black cats and we stayed there every weekend but this didn’t really help much. I was never a massive fan and as I got older and started to be left in on my own on occasion, I would shoo them out of the living room on account of the fact that they made me really uncomfortable. Slinking around with their slightly-too-intelligent eyes and what I still swear would qualify as smug expressions! And as for walking up the stairs while they were poised on the banister at the top, trying to psych me out by looking like they could pounce at any second… no chance!

Okay, so I probably sound pretty insane to all but a very niche group of animally-awkward people like myself. But there is a point to why I’m telling you all of this.

Due to recent circumstances, I have for the first time in my life, at 24.5 years of age, become solely responsible for another creature.

His name is Sherlock and he’s a goldfish.

Now somewhat predictably, very soon after this happened I had a small panic about my ability to keep this goldfish alive. To understand why, you need to know a little of Sherlock’s back story…

It was Easter-time back in 2013 and I was living in London whilst doing an internship, like so many other evenings we paid a visit to the local Polish supermarket, which was basically like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, containing all sorts of sweet and savoury treats that you would never find in the likes of Asda. Including sugar-coated peanuts and every flavour of ‘Milka’ chocolate you can imagine! What it didn’t usually sell… was fish.

But, fatefully, as a kind of random birth/life/Easter celebration, on this day they were selling just that. Now I’ve explained that I’m not exactly a pet person so I wouldn’t usually have bothered too much about this. But even I couldn’t bare how those poor little fish were being kept. In a tank that looked like it was designed for one or two, there were no less than 50 fish, cramped together and looking thoroughly miserable. So we found the most sickly looking specimen and bought him for £1.

In truth we expected him to die pretty much instantly, but after a few days he was looking far more chirpy (if indeed a fish can look such a thing) and once he was set up in his own proper tank, complete with decorative gravel and ornaments, he thrived! He even survived the journey up North to Sunderland on the train in a (very large, the largest you can buy, and thoroughly cleaned out) coffe jar.

Since then he’s survived another house move and a week-long bout of barely moving or eating whilst a bizarre white thing hung from his side (very glad that went away).

He’s almost 2 years old now and as far as I know that’s a long time in goldfish years, so you can see why I don’t want to be responsible for killing the little guy now.

But unfortunately, if you’d been witness to my first attempt at cleaning him out last week, which involved me backing away into the corner while my younger sister fished him out of the tank with the little net, all the time saying “I feel like I’m doing a bushtucker trial,” you would understand that its a very real possibility!

As for now, Sherlock is all set up in a new, bigger tank donated by the aforementioned little sister, with some nice clean new gravel and a lovely spongebob ornament. After having a pretty mental 5 minutes where we were genuinely scared he would jump out of the top and had to scramble to put the lid on, he seems to have settled in.

So it doesn’t look like I’ve done him any harm so far – touch wood!

Oh by the way, that childhood obsession? It was dolphins, I always did love those guys!